P3ing Watermains, Sewers And Roads
It's amazing what a day away from a PC can do for a person's brain. It all became crystal clear thanks to Gord Henderson's column yesterday. Did Eddie divert and I do not mean levy money.
- "it was only after the utility came under the control of the city that a 31/2-year freeze on rates was imposed."
Is that logical to you when watermains needed replacement? Is it logical to you that Eddie in 2005 hoped water rates could be reduced?
We have all been bombarded by scare stories with huge numbers concerning Watermain-gate and time periods when only our future generations will be around.
$330M in spending over 50 years, $600M over 30 years, $660M over 100 years, $750M, $830M and that is just for watermains. We collect $35M per year in sewer surcharges. Many of our roads are deficient and we will have a huge bill for E C Row upgrading.
We are told that one option for watermains is:
- "The 2007 report suggested doing the bulk of the work up front.
It said WUC needed to do 66 per cent of the work at a cost of $440 million in the first 25 years. The rest of the work in the 100-year plan would be done at $6 million to $8 million per year in the remaining 75 years."
Who is going to pay for that---taxpayers and increased levies? Where are we going to find all of that cash unless the Senior Levels help out? Who else has such a huge pot of money that they can afford to invest so much now and then wait out the long term?
I got it. There is an answer: big pension funds like OMERS or Teachers or private equity companies or Macquarie Bank or Alinda of Tunnel fame.
I am surprised that no one has suggested yet a public/private partnership. Let me use this statement from the Borealis Infrastucture website as an explanation. Borealis is involved with DRTP as an investment (Note: I am NOT suggesting that they have any interest whatsoever in watermains in Windsor):
- "Historically, virtually all assets characterized today as infrastructure assets were owned by governments. In the past 20 years, there has been a substantive and beneficial shift to involving the private sector in financing, developing and operating infrastructure facilities and services within public policy frameworks. Increasingly, governments are gaining confidence in turning to the private sector to provide capital, corporate leadership and asset management skills through public/private partnerships and other investment vehicles. All governments face an infrastructure deficit at a time of fiscal strain when it is difficult to raise the revenue needed to meet all public service demands."
Fixing roads and sewers can be soooooooo hum-drum, especially if you were a former "Young Entrepreneur of the year.". Running an arena or airport or a border crossing or developing shovel ready lands or cleaning up a brownfield is much more interesting and challenging especially when you can use taxpayer money. Think of all of the high-paying board meetings that can be held too. A nice addition to a lowly Councillor salary.
Is that what this is really all about....setting us up for a public/private partnership? Let the private sector finance improvements and then operate for a profit the boring infrastructure while politicians become entrepreneurs. What's a small road toll on E C Row after all if you have an extra lane of traffic built in each direction.
If that is what is intended, then let us have a true debate about the subject of P3s with the pros and cons of giving up what has been traditionally the role of municipal government. Let us not go into something on the basis of a manufactured crisis.
There seems to be a pattern. I remembered that Tunnel tolls had been kept low at the Windsor-owned Tunnel for quite some time. Even so, Tunnel business tanked while it took forever to find someone to "breathe" the Tunnel. Dividends to the City from operations were drastically reduced under the watch of the WTC Chair/Mayor. Then there was the airport where the outside management company's request for a loan to which they were legally entitled was "deferred." Soon after, they gave up their contract. And how can the City run an arena when that is not a core function and we have little expertise.
Effectively, that is what the Detroit Tunnel deal is all about. It will be a public/private partnership of some kind, and you will see the airport lands being dealt with in a similar fashion. I thought there was an RFP to the private sector for arena management outstanding as well. Oh the public sector owns the asset but it is run by the private sector for long periods, in some cases 99 years (The Tunnel deal was 75 years wasn't it).
Are roads, sewer and watermains next for P3s?
The irony of it all....If I am right, Councillor Lewenza, who is a union man, could be the last public sector Chair of WUC before it effectively goes P3. Now THAT would be something to discuss with his unemployed brothers and sisters at the union hall! After all, the private sector does not need as many people on its payroll either.
Can you imagine, Chair Lewenza having to justify the P3 investment as Chair and being forced to approve of the private partner cutting union jobs. Geeez Ken, why else were you made Chair. You can take the hit for this as Eddie smiles in the background. Who is WUC Chair when this whole mess took place in the first instance! Did you ever get suckered!I hope Junior reads this article first "Who benefits - corporations or communities? The clear choice about water" http://cupe.ca/PrivatizationWater/Who_Benefits__Corpor
Oh and about Gord....how did his column start out:
- "It would take immense political courage, but the only real fix for the Windsor Utilities Commission and Enwin might be to blow up these bloated organizations and start over.
And how did he conclude:
- "The way to really fix this mess, said Jim, would be to shut down WUC and Enwin Powerlines operations and hand them over, on contract, to the private sector to run on a turnkey basis.
In my opinion, that's the real story behind WUC. The audit and the Monday Night drama are all mere diversions.